Thursday, November 6, 2014

How do you disrecommend someone?

I have been extraordinarily remiss in not linking to C&EN's Employment Outlook section, but as readers may have sensed, it has been busy here this week. So, to rectify that, 3 links: 
Linda interviewed Bob Gadwood at Kalexsyn -- here's what he had to say about interpersonal relationships during an interview: 
At Kalexsyn, a small contract research organization in Kalamazoo, Mich., the entire staff participates in interviewing a candidate, from attending the seminar, to asking questions, to meeting with the prospective hire one-on-one. “Everybody has the ability to influence the decision-making process on who’s going to be brought in,” says Robert Gadwood, president and chief scientific officer of Kalexsyn. “If somebody says, ‘No, I absolutely will not work with that person,’ that’s pretty much it.” 
Gadwood acknowledges that interviewing is not an exact science. “That’s why you have a process in place that gets the opinion of multiple skilled interviewers on a particular candidate,” he says. “You can feel more confident that you’ve made the right choice.” 
In situations where the staff is split on a candidate, “we haven’t hired those people,” Gadwood says. “We have to have pretty much a unanimous decision that this person will fit in well here.” The company typically hires two to three scientists a year, he notes. “We’ve gotten pretty good at identifying the people that we think would fit in well at Kalexsyn.”
Do all companies go this way? I suspect that, at most companies, if enough trusted people express negative/something-less-than-enthusiastic opinions, a hire decision is not made. That said, I am sure there are as many stories of hires being made over-people's-dead-bodies.

Finally, let's say that you're working at a large organization and you hear about someone being interviewed who should not be hired. How should you go about making your opinion known? Personally, I would find 1) the hiring manager or 2) the person that knows the hiring manager the best and express my opinion in person (i.e. not on paper). Readers, what are your thoughts? 

31 comments:

  1. At companies I'm not sure how that would work, unless a current worker had directly worked with someone before. Even in a small shop, that seems like it would leave you open to some EEOC problems ("fit in here" may be code for "doesn't look like us").

    Conversely I know professors like to run their labs like a private fiefdom but I wondered why they never (to my experience) asked for input from their current students about accepting rotation students. It seems like that could be disruptive to their labs (or run the risk of taking a not-good student) to not take into account their student's opinions, but we all know what those are worth.

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  2. From another perspective, I've had phone calls from prospective employers asking me if I would provide a recommendation for an individual with whom I've worked. If the person is one that I would not recommend I say "Mr/Ms. So-and-So worked for me from (Date 1) to (Date 2)." When pressed for more information, I simply say, "I have provided you all the information you need to make an informed decision."

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  3. I read the article at http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i44/Pockets-Opportunity.html . It was highly prejudiced towards recruitment from specific, elite universities, e.g. UCLA, UCSD, and U Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The perspective put out by the article's author is just another example of the ACS putting on horse blinds.

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    1. I like this quote "At the same time, Stacey says there’s been strong demand for chemists in the temporary-staffing market, something she does not interpret as bad news. The emergence of this trend is less a sign of companies’ aversion to hiring full-time employees and more a reflection of a new workplace paradigm, she says. “More employees want to work on their terms and that may mean working as consultants or doing temporary project work for multiple companies. And more companies across many businesses see the value of a workforce they can flex depending on their immediate business needs,” she says."

      It's a feature not a bug to be disposable.

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    2. Indeed. Would Jamie Stacey (from Kelly Services) and Susan J. Ainsworth (the author of that article) care to work as temporary staff?

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    3. I was so furious when I read that. It did not come across as a snapshot on the current employment barometer, but rather a stump piece for companies that have hired recently.

      As a contract worker (who works for Kelly Services) my only goal at work is to do enough chemistry and impress the correct people to become not a contract worker. I don't want flexibility in my employment. I want stability and full benefits. Now it may be different if you get a BS in chemistry and don't have a great idea of what you want to do yet, but I have a masters in organic chemistry from a top ten graduate school. I have chosen my path.

      The other possibility here is that the employees she is referring to are retirees that may want to continue working, but not as many hours each week and would love to eliminate some of the BS that comes along with the chemical industry.

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    4. Anon821: Please email me at chemjobber@gmail.com

      I would like to hear your story, if you are willing to tell it. Confidentiality guaranteed.

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  4. From a conversation I witnessed last week:

    - I worked for Pfizer for more than a decade before leaving to start my own business.
    - I have a PhD in organic chemistry, do you have any positions?
    - Can you program for Android?

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  5. This hasn't come up that often for me. There are only a few people I would actively recommend against. There are more I'd recommend with caveats. Either way, I talk to the hiring manager directly. There was one case where the company was considering a person with whom I have sworn I will never work again. The hiring manager picked up on his issues before I had a chance to say anything, but I did also tell my boss that if they hired this guy I would resign. That was not an empty threat.

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  6. Interesting as although I'm junior in my career and have little experience of this, I'd always thought 'research fit' was often a codeword for disfavouring the hiring of minorities.

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    1. NC, it is not always the case. I have heard this told to me: (a) it really was true; I'm glad not to be there any more and (b) I'm just a white male.

      Let me guess: you are either from the UK or a commonwealth country?

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    2. Many be at some point in the past, but my feeling is that these days minority PhD is worth his weight in gold, more if it's her, for any company looking to be a government contractor

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    3. It's code for socially adept, which is not always a given with scientists. The ability to smile and do as you're told and network and go along to get along is the meaning of 'fit.'

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    4. I feel very strongly that it does not make a lot of sense for a white male to get a PhD unless you are extremely bright and creative enough to become faculty somewhere. The strength of a male's marriage (or single) life strongly depends on the reliability of his paycheck, and if you are a white not-so-creative male, then that a reliable check as a scientist is far from guaranteed, which is a lot of stress to a marriage.

      If you are a minority or a woman, you have more employment options, and for women, in general, the strength of their marriage does not depend on their paycheck. So a PhD is not such a life-killer for minorities or women as it is for white men.

      Feminism and the movement of women to work has had the unintended consequence of ruining marriages, especially for male scientists.

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    6. Hi "Bring the Movies":

      You wrote "I feel very strongly that it does not make a lot of sense for a white male to get a PhD unless you are extremely bright and creative enough to become faculty somewhere. "

      I feel that you're missing the point, here: there are already enough white males around who have the education, in addition to meeting your criteria. There just aren't enough jobs to go around for all of them.

      So what we're left with is EE publicity from the press and government policy directed towards a much small(er), select target audience. That, and also the de-facto pedigree-discrimination, which also amounts to even more publicity. Since faculty positions are accompanied with a lot of publicity, those folks get the jobs.

      As an example of the last factor, just look at the faculty profiles of most less-than-famous US chemistry departments which nevertheless still offer doctoral degrees. They will usually advertise the pedigrees of their faculty members, and those pedigrees will most likely not include a doctorate from that same university.

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    7. Bring the Movies makes a good point about needing a decent steady paycheck to be considered a datable man. Despite my stupidity in choosing to earn a PhD in chemistry, I still lucked out with an industry job. Although who knows what my life will be like in subsequent decades...

      But I would like to make a counterpoint about what makes a woman datable. Beyond all the other considerations, I look for a partner who has that same work ethic and decent steady paycheck. She doesn't need to earn as much as I do, but she must be self-sufficient. I consider women who choose not to work (in the workforce or as a stay at home parent) and want a man to support them as having a child's mentality. There's nothing wrong if that's what both partners are happy with, but it's not for me, and honestly even if I did want it, I couldn't afford it.

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    8. I will counter you further by saying that if women withdrew from the workplace then men would be more likely to be the dateable man that women desire, because that would free up more permanent jobs for men. But the genie is out of the bottle....

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    9. (1) There is a noted absence of women among the commenters on this thread. What would their opinions be like on this topic? Or are we just a bunch of white males who are trying to find fault where we can?

      (2) "Bring the Movies": your most recent comment implies that the number of women who, according to your logic, are taking jobs away from us white males equals the number of white males who are seeking comparable employment. If you don't have any DATA to back that up, then I am supposing that there are still far too many people on the job market to be compensated by your hypothetical removal of women from the job market.

      (3) There is some irony in the fact that the policy-makers who actively support the preferential hiring of under-represented categories either (a) are already employed or (b) are, themselves members of those same categories.

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    10. GC: In light of the fact that 50% of American employment belongs to women these days, its a no-brainer to see that if women declined work than more men would have more of a chance to have a job. In my employment (Biochem) if women simply withdrew from this my salary would increase dramatically (assuming they were not replaced with cheap immigrant labor). I'm not sure if this is a good thing overall, but it would improve my wage.

      What I am saying is this (and this goes well beyond Chemistry). Women, in general, are hypergamous...they typically are most comfortable dating a man that they see as being better than themselves. (Anecdotal evidence: How many female doctors do you see married to male nurses? How many female professors do you see dating a male post-doc or technician?) Therefore, if women withdrew from the workplace (not only in Chemistry), then they are more likely to see the men, who are now more likely to be employed, as suitable for dating.

      I have little doubt that there could be bad consequences for this; however, I think it could lead to a lot of happier marriages if a woman's instinctive hypergamy could be satisfied.

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    11. bring the movies, the generalizations you make so easily are just a reflection of your ignorance.

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    12. "Bring the Movies", we are drifting into hot water:

      (1) I simply can't believe that only men and no women read this blog. For that matter, I even recommended it to one woman undergrad who is now in grad school. She was clearly the best undergrad who I have ever had, male or female.

      (2) Actually, off the top of my head, I DO know of a specific woman professor who was having an affair with a male underling. She is highly successful, started off at a university in Michigan and then moved to one in Texas. If I can name one example, then other readers can certainly name many more.

      (3) The context of this discussion is academic positions. In the physical sciences, 50% of positions are not being filled by women. Even if they were 50%, and they were to follow your suggestion and quit, then simple arithmetic would dictate that the number of available faculty positions would only double. And that would still not be enough positions to employ every qualified (male) candidate in academia. Also, according to your logic, if all women were to quit their academic jobs and become stay-at-home mothers, then this would free up a certain number of stay-at-home dads to compete for faculty jobs.

      (4) While CJ appears unwilling to feature the following question in his blog, I will post a simplified version here: Everything else being equal, which carries more importance in the choice of a candidate for a faculty position at a research-lead university? Meeting EE regulations, or the candidate being a US citizen? From my own experience, I know that European countries don't have any issues with analogous questions.

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    13. I am happy to have a very light touch in my comments section; this thread is taxing my stores of patience.

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    14. Bring the Movies - as a female chemist with a PhD, I'm quite disgusted that your view of women is that they shouldn't work so you can make more money and then supposedly be more date-able. Maybe your dating problems stem from your obvious sexism, and not your arguably low salary.

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  7. I once was involved in assisting a HR rep prioritize resumes of candidates for a position above me and came across one of a former boss, He was a huge back stabbing SOB and I noted some "exaggerations" in his letter and CV therefore I flat out told her this guy was a waste and we moved on.

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  8. I'm at a Big Pharma company, our assessment of a candidate's personality is a fairly large portion of whether they get an offer or not. We work really closely with other people in our department, so candidates who were jerks, or arrogant, or simply completely uninterested in learning more about the position and the department have not gotten offers (and the two that fit that description that I met were white men, to counter some concerns in the comments about what 'fit' means. And we have hired plenty of other white men, probably more than other gender/race categories, since there's apparently some misogynist jerks also in these comments who want to blame their minimal sucess on someone else...)

    We know that there are plenty of chemists who are a bit socially awkward, and so that alone wouldn't disqualify someone, but in terms of personality we're looking for candidates who are interested in learning more, who are fully engaged throughout the entire interview, who give indications that they would work well in teams.

    If any current coworkers previously worked with the candidate, their insight is definitely given some weight in the interview review, although it doesn't often differ from the general opinion of the interview committee (ie, I've seen candidate be reviewed generally favorably with a few concerns, and then those who knew them before say positive things to allay that concerns, and I've seen candidates be reviewed generally unfavorable, and then those who knew them before say not-so-great things, but not really a situation where the committee's opinion was positive and the coworkers was strongly negative or vice versa).

    If previous coworkers of the candidate, currently employed at our workplace, were concerned about that person coming to the department and did not make their opinion known the the hiring manager and/or the interview committee organizer, then I think that would reflect poorly on the them. If I found out we were interviewing someone I had major concerns about, I would not hestitate to discuss those concerns with the interview committee (and the same if I had very positive things to say).

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  9. Since when is this blog about dating? I was under the impression that this was a place to find ideas, help, experiences, and other useful stuff about getting and keeping a job in chemistry. For all, including chemists who happen to be non white and/or non-male, or anything else.

    If however, a reader feels the need for advice on how to find a companion, go to pagingdrnerdlove, where one can learn how not to be a lonely entitled jerk, who may happen to also be a chemist.

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    1. I agree. What dating, BACK TO THE HOODS, YOU PEONS!!!!

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  10. There are many more women chemists who read and comment on this blog than you can imagine. But, to quote:
    "Your identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it."
    This is _especially_ important for women...

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    1. "Your identity is your most valuable possession. Protect it."

      I'll say. I'd be fired in a jiffy if I was personally linked to my delightful imitations of Larry Summers on weed.

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    2. At least Summers tried to base his assertions -however blunt they were- on scientific studies, and repeatedly apologized whereas you are relying on "Anecdotal evidence".
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Summers#Differences_between_the_sexes

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